Nov 11, 2007

What a Commander-in-Chief Could Say to the Veterans and those Serving in our Armed Forces

As president Bush is making the rounds of Veteran hospitals and speaking about the meaning of Veteran's Day (11/11), I'm re-posting excerpts of a "speech" I drafted for a president who could speak honestly and would face reality--if he had the guts.

I see before me young men and women who represent the armed forces of this nation, and who have, in essence, pledged their lives to defend our country. I stand here as your Commander-in-Chief, yet I do understand that this title bestows me with a huge responsibility, not only toward you but also toward the United States of America. I have to make difficult decisions, but I will never commit our most precious resources, our blood, sweat and tears, without our country being in grave danger and before I carefully weigh the consequences of such an action. I will never lie to you and I will never ask you to make any sacrifice that I, myself, wouldn't be willing to make.

When our country must sacrifice, I will do my best to see that this burden is widely shared and not placed on the shoulders of the least privileged of our society. I will not allow such a situation to become a way to transfer more wealth to the few, especially when this would result in mortgaging the future of the many. If sacrifice we must, then the pain must be more equitably distributed. It's only fair. Patriotism isn't defined by big talk & long speeches, waving of the flag, and saluting the veterans.

I know that many of you chose a military career because of the benefits offered by the military: the professional training & the skills, the health care benefits, the signing bonuses, etc. I realize that for many of you the military offers opportunities not available to you otherwise. I'm not trying to devalue your commitment to and your love for the country. On the contrary! You all have families, friends, neighbors, our democracy, and our way of life to defend. We are very much indebted to you. I have instructed our recruiters never to lie to you, no false pretenses and promises. And, when you sign up, you should know that your country will never let you down.

Without you, the rest of us wouldn't be able to survive in a hostile world. So, again, we thank you for your commitment, and I promise you to do whatever I can to give you all the necessary means to perform your job. I won't send you into combat without the proper equipment and training. I won't lie to you about our objectives and the reasons for placing you in harm's way. There will be casualties--that's a dire consequence of war. But, I will make sure that all of our injured personnel will get the best medical treatment and their health benefits will never be reduced. The same goes for the families of those killed in action. It's the least we can do for the ultimate sacrifice that so many fighting men & women have done for us.

Yet, a war should be the last resort. We are a powerful country but our strength hasn't relied only on the might of our armed forces. Our strength derives from the strength of the American character, our freedom & tolerance, our diversity, our technology, our culture, our scientific progress, and our democratic way of life. The American experience and the reality of the frontier, even the violent struggles for civil rights, the many peoples who came to our shores to pursue their dreams of a better life... All these, I believe, made us good people, not perfect but always improving. That's progress. We can't turn back! We've endured many trials and tribulations, but like the Revolutionary soldiers at Valley Forge, we marched ahead and blazed our own trails... and we became the envy of the world. We made mistakes aplenty, like every other nation. We accept the responsibility with the promise to look forward with the urgency to keep building a better world for us, and for our children. We should remain the leaders not by military power alone but because we command respect for our worthwhile achievements and the values for which we stand.

My original post and the complete "speech" here
Photos by Associated Press; WaPo front page, Feb. 18, 2007